British Columbia

What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on March 31, 2020

There have been 1,013 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C., including 24 deaths.

43 more people in B.C. have tested positive; officials have identified an outbreak at a West Kelowna nursery

"Do your part, stay home, stay safe and we'll bend this curve together," said Horgan in a televised address Tuesday evening. (CBC)

THE LATEST:

  • Forty-three more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in British Columbia.
  • As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 1,013 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province.
  • Five more people have died, for a total of 24 in B.C.
  • One hundred twenty eight are in hospital, including 61 in intensive care.
  • Just over half of all patients, 507 in total, have now recovered from the disease.
  • B.C.'s Interior region is experiencing its first COVID-19 outbreak, in a group of temporary foreign workers at Bylands Nurseries in West Kelowna.
  • New protocols are being putting in place to help non-paramedic first responders, such as police and firefighters. 
  • Premier John Horgan addresses British Columbians, extends state of emergency

On Tuesday evening, Premier John Horgan spoke directly to British Columbians, and extended the province's state of emergency.

In a televised address, Horgan emphasized how important the next 14 days are in the fight against the pandemic, and implored people to stay home, to physically distance, to wash hands, and to not gather in groups.

"What we do today will affect what our doctors, nurses and first responders face in the days and weeks ahead. It will determine how many of us stay healthy, and how much we can do to flatten the curve," he said. 

"You might not feel it in your living room, but everyone in B.C. Is pulling together and there are early signs that our actions are making a difference. But we can't stop now."

Horgan also thanked "every essential worker" including transit operators, truckers, grocery store workers, child care providers, gas station attendants, pharmacy workers and others. But the Premier reserved his strongest praise for health care workers, and said the province is working hard to secure personal protective equipment, or PPE.

"You are moving heaven and earth to help people who are sick, and we know you're stressed. We know you're exhausted. And we know you're being pushed to the very limit. We know you're putting yourself in harm's way to keep others safe," said Horgan. "And for that, you have our deepest gratitude."

"We may be separated, but we're not alone," said Horgan, who asked British Columbians to recommit to the province's healthcare workers, and to each other.

"Do your part, stay home, stay safe and we'll bend this curve together."

B.C.'s Interior Health Region is experiencing its first outbreak of COVID-19, in a group of temporary foreign workers at West Kelowna's Byland Nurseries. (Bylands.com)

B.C.'s Interior region is experiencing its first outbreak of COVID-19, at Bylands Nurseries in West Kelowna.

According to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, the outbreak occurred within a group of temporary foreign workers who arrived in Canada before international travel restrictions were put in place.

At a briefing Tuesday, Henry said that some of the workers began experiencing respiratory symptoms, and public health officials performed tests and investigated the group's housing facilities last weekend.

The officials found the workers could be safely housed on the site, and the infected individuals could be effectively quarantined.

"The business itself is being quarantined and everybody is able to be isolated effectively in the very good housing that is onsite there," said Henry.

"We want to thank both the workers themselves and the owners and operators of the nursery for being fully cooperative. And everybody is being cared for very well."

Henry said the workers had stayed on the farm and not visited the local community, so there was little risk of the outbreak spreading beyond the agricultural facility.

Ambulances parked outside the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster on Monday, March 30, 2020. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

There have been 1,013 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. as of Tuesday, and five more deaths, for a total of 24 who have died from the virus in the province.

Cases have been detected at 19 long-term care and assisted-living facilities, all of them in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions. Nearly all of the COVID deaths in the province are related to one of those facilities.

Currently 128 people are in hospital as a result of the virus, with 61 patients in intensive care. Just over half of all patients — 507 in total — have fully recovered.

Provincial officials have also changed the way first responders approach emergency calls during the COVID-19 crisis.

Specifically, firefighters and police officers who might normally attend to medical emergencies along with paramedics will no longer be dispatched, unless their services are required.

Henry says the move will help better protect non-paramedic first responders, and reduce unnecessary use of valuable personal protective equipment, or PPE, during the COVID pandemic.

"The protocol allows for paramedics to be dispatched only to most medical calls unless there's a need for backup from either police or fire services," said Henry Tuesday afternoon.

"So I think that's a really important measure that we want to make sure protects our non-paramedic first responders and ensures that our paramedics are able to respond effectively with the personal protective equipment that they need."

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides a COVID-19 update on Thursday. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

B.C. is now into its third week of physical distancing, and arriving at a "critical" juncture in the provincewide effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the peak of the outbreak is still to come in B.C., and it's crucial that people continue to keep their distance from others to minimize its impact.

"We know that, right now, it is still dangerous for us to be gathering in groups because that's where transmission can happen. We need to keep that firewall between us for the next couple weeks until we have a better idea of how this virus is moving through our community," Henry told CBC's The Early Edition on Tuesday.

"I think it's important for people to know that this does make a difference. It is important and it is working and we need to continue to do it for the next few weeks and then we can reassess and, hopefully, take a bit of a breath."

Parking lot at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster on Monday, March 30, 2020. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Asked whether B.C. is nearing the point of shutting down non-essential businesses and ordering the public to stay home, Henry said the province could be approaching that phase.

"I think we are close to it now. We are at the point where we have closed all of those same businesses that they're calling for in many states, et cetera, and we're trying to find that balance," she said.

19 hospitals designated as primary care sites

On Monday, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced that 19 major B.C. hospitals are now designated as COVID-19 primary care sites. According to Dix, an additional 200 beds are being made ready at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Henry said the convention centre is being prepared in case all of B.C.'s hospitals were to ever fill.

"My hope is that we will never have to use it," she said Tuesday.

Henry said the overflow centre is being readied proactively to avoid situations seen in other jurisdictions like New York City, which has had to bring in a U.S. Navy Hospital ship to house patients after hospitals were overwhelmed.

The Vancouver Convention Centre is pictured in Vancouver on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

On Monday, B.C. also announced paid parking will be suspended for the public, staff and patients at all health authority sites as of April 1 to support physical distancing.

Nationally, the federal government is moving forward with the private sector on agreements to purchase equipment for the response to COVID-19.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday production of ventilators, masks and test kits is now underway with companies in Ontario and Quebec. He said one company, Thornhill Medical, is making 500 ventilators and hopes to have them ready within weeks.

Trudeau said the government has signed letters of intent with five other firms to bolster the national stockpiles of badly needed equipment and has allocated $2 billion to purchase personal protective equipment for health-care professionals.

Important reminders:

Health officials widely agree the most important thing you can do to prevent coronavirus and other illnesses is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. 

The World Health Organization said more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 infections are estimated to be mild.

What's happening elsewhere in Canada

As of 3 a.m. PT on Tuesday, Canada had 7,474 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, with 92 deaths. Provinces and territories reported 1,114 cases as resolved, though it's important to note that data isn't available in all areas.

The numbers, which are updated at least daily by the provinces and territories, are not a complete picture, as they don't account for people who haven't been tested, those being investigated as a potential case and people still waiting to learn the results of their test.

For a look at what's happening in other provinces and the territories, check the CBC interactive case tracker.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Stay home. Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

What can I do to protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean.
  • Keep at least two metres away from people who are sick.
  • When outside the home, keep two metres away from other people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Masks won't fully protect you from infection, but can help prevent you from infecting others.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.

With files from CBC's The Early Edition, On The Island and The Canadian Press

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